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District to remain in full-time remote after Fall Break through at least the end of December

Dr. Chad Higgins, Maize USD 266 Superintendent of Schools Dear OneMa1ze,

Maize USD 266 students in all grades and educators will continue in full-time remote teaching and learning on Monday, Nov. 30 following Fall Break and through the end of December at the least. Members from the Maize Board of Education met on Nov. 24 and unanimously voted to extend the learning model as it is currently in place. The board also voted that all students, including pre-k, will wear face masks when they are in schools. 

Regarding athletics and activities, the district will abide by guidelines established by the Kansas State High School Activities Association (KSHSAA) and Ark Valley Chisholm Trail League (AVCTL). The district will continue to allow student-athlete and other student activities to practice and compete/perform to the fullest extent possible. However, no spectators or non-essential personnel will be allowed in the same facilities as students during practices, performances, or competitions until at least Jan. 28.

As has been the case in November, we have significant concerns about being able to keep school buildings physically open in December because of the high number of infections affecting our staffing capacity. Employee absences have crippled our operations, from classrooms to support services, including transportation, food service, and maintenance. 

Since Nov. 9 when board members voted to pivot to full-time remote, we have seen evidence that COVID-19 cases continue to be problematic in our community. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) identified Maize Elementary School as a cluster on Nov. 11 and Maize High School and Maize South High School as clusters on Nov. 18. KDHE updates cluster summaries every Wednesday and publishes the name of locations that have five or more COVID-19 cases with symptom onset dates in the last 14 days. 

Sedgwick County’s rolling 14-day average of positive percentage of all tests, which was 21.6 percent on Nov. 9, is 21.99 percent today. The strain on local hospitals continues and is worsening, as the number of total COVID-19 patients increases with zero ICU beds available. Unfortunately, experts in the health and medical community indicate that this likely will only worsen following the holiday.

To help address the teacher vacancies, school board members approved a proposed pay increase for substitute teachers and a strategy to secure more help from substitute teachers. This includes an increase in pay and lumps 10 days into a long-term assignment. Those interested in applying to be a substitute teacher or for any job opening can do so by clicking here.

Board members and I discussed related issues facing our district, including the effect remote learning has on our students who may lack resources or have special needs. The district will continue to present social-emotional resources and operate the new Academic Help Desk, which the district launched last week. Please click here to learn more and request help. The Nov. 24 school board meeting was broadcast live on the district YouTube channel at bit.ly/Maize266YouTube. Those interested can visit the link to watch the meeting.

Leaders and school board members will continue to monitor data, and the board’s next regular monthly meeting will be at 7 p.m. Dec. 14. During that meeting, board members and I may discuss the possibility of returning our younger students back to face-to-face learning before our older students. Since this summer, the district continues to consider the advice, guidance, and research of several resources that indicate that younger children may be less likely than older children to contract and spread COVID-19.

In the meantime, Maize USD 266 will continue to operate free curbside meal pickup. Find complete details at bit.ly/2KpqFHu.

Thank you,

Dr. Chad Higgins

Superintendent of Schools

Maize USD 266